In its annual survey of students, the American College Health Association found a significant increase — to 62 percent in 2016 from 50 percent in 2011 — of undergraduates reporting “overwhelming anxiety” in the previous year. Surveys that look at symptoms related to anxiety are also telling. In 1985, the Higher Education Research Institute at U.C.L.A. began asking incoming college freshmen if they “felt overwhelmed by all I had to do” during the previous year. In 1985, 18 percent said they did. By 2010, that number had increased to 29 percent. Last year, it surged to 41 percent.
When Mr. Hanks was 5, living in Redding, Calif., his parents separated. His mother, a waitress, kept the youngest of the four children while Tom went with the other two to live with his father. He was playing with his siblings one night when he was told he had to go with his father. He was a cook who married twice more and Tom had lots of stepsiblings and lived with a lot of upheaval. “By the age of 10, I’d lived in 10 houses.”
“By and large, they were all positive people and we were all just kind of in this odd potluck circumstance,” he said, adding that he still vividly recalls the confusion of being that little boy. “I could probably count on one hand the number of times I was in a room alone with my mom, or in a car alone. That is not exactly what happened to me, but there were times when either my mom or my dad — the same thing was true for both — in which being alone with them, I realized, was like, ‘This is a special time.’ For other people, it’s not a special time. It’s just part and parcel to the day.”
My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:
Be like Tom Hanks. He’s had his share of rough times in life, but he remains strong, good, and talented. He doesn’t adopt a “Woe is me!” attitude.
Everyone in life has his or her own cross to carry. It is no use to cry about it all the time. Deal with it and move on.
Victimhood is becoming an art, and it is making us weak. Yes, mourn when bad things happen. Take time to recover and heal. Then, get back on the horse and move on!
Don’t wallow in the misery, the misfortune, the bad. Without the negative, how could you fully appreciate the beauty of kindness, of goodness, of fortune? Take the bad with the good. Learn from each. Keep what you must. Then, move on with the business of growing as a person and living as a person.
According to the article above, 18% of incoming college freshmen felt overwhelmed in 1985 versus 62% today. Has college gotten harder? No. Has the challenges of living on your own for the first time gotten harder? No. Yet, why are more incoming freshmen overwhelmed? Maybe they lack the survival skills and fortitude of earlier generations for whom life was more challenging, and for whom less was given. These days, we have too many helicopter parents whose life’s mission is to not let their child fail. (Of course, I’m oversimplifying. The factors are many, and too much to go into here.) They intervene at the most inopportune times, when children are presented with opportunities to test themselves, learn, and grow. Without challenging ourselves, how will we ever know what we are capable of? how good we are?
Giving everyone a gold star for showing up is doing a disservice to our children. It fails to reward each individual child’s effort. Empty praises help no one.
He goes on to admonish against today’s culture of excessive parental praise, which he argues does more for lifting the self-esteem of the parents than for cultivating a healthy one in their children:
Admiring our children may temporarily lift our self-esteem by signaling to those around us what fantastic parents we are and what terrific kids we have — but it isn’t doing much for a child’s sense of self. In trying so hard to be different from our parents, we’re actually doing much the same thing — doling out empty praise the way an earlier generation doled out thoughtless criticism. If we do it to avoid thinking about our child and her world, and about what our child feels, then praise, just like criticism, is ultimately expressing our indifference.
To explore what the healthier substitute for praise might be, he recounts observing an eighty-year-old remedial reading teacher named Charlotte Stiglitz, the mother of the Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, who told Grosz of her teaching methodology:
I don’t praise a small child for doing what they ought to be able to do,’ she told me. ‘I praise them when they do something really difficult — like sharing a toy or showing patience. I also think it is important to say “thank you”. When I’m slow in getting a snack for a child, or slow to help them and they have been patient, I thank them. But I wouldn’t praise a child who is playing or reading.
Be present. Do your best — neither I, nor anyone else, can expect no more than that. Keep trying. Keep moving forward. Keep learning. Keep growing.
Be thankful for what you have, and the many blessings in your lives. However, that does not mean you can rest there and stay where you are. Life continues to flow around you. If you don’t move forward with it, then you will be left far behind your friends and cohorts. And, I’m not talking about things and acquisitions. I’m talking about life, maturity, and the unique experiences that only living will afford you. You do not want to be a man of 90, but stunted in emotion, intelligence, and life’s experience. It would be unbecoming.
All my love, always,